Big Tree Camp (9,186′) to Shira 1 Camp (11,482′); 4.9 mi.
Upon entering camp last night, we immediately knew we were being cared for by one of the best companies on the mountain. Well before we arrived, our camp crew, led by Camp Manager “King Solomon,” had fully erected our camp, which includes a very large dining tent, a kitchen tent, the private toilet tents, and of course all the tents for our total group of 45.
Each of our 2-person tents are supported by a dedicated crew of 2 that are assigned to remain with us throughout the trek. As soon as we entered camp, we were directed to the specific tent number that would be ours for the next seven days. Our gear was delivered and a warm bowl of water was provided in order to wash off some of the trail and sweat.
After a quick fresh-up, we proceeded to the tall geodesic dome tent that serves as the dining tent, where a large table and chairs are ready for the dinner service. Before dinner, though, we enjoyed some nice freshly popped popcorn as we relax and wind down from the day’s trek. Every meal is prepared by our two chefs, Idi and Saidi, and served by Mfunga and Francis who use the opportunity as a stepping stone to becoming guides. To be a guide, it is important to be able to comfortably interact with clients, so the server role is the perfect opportunity to frequently engage in conversations, answer questions and learn from the other guides as they eat with us, converse, and provide our daily briefings.
After dinner it is time to wind down and get ready for bed. The night comes early and the days are full, so we are ready for a good night sleep. Sleep came easy, but there were quite a few tent zipper sounds throughout the night as all the water we are encouraged to drink throughout the day continues to work it’s way through our systems. Once back inside the tent, sleep was intermittent for some and immediate for others.
Bright and early at 6:00 a.m. a member of the tent crew wakes us up and brings a hot cup of tea or coffee to ease us into the day. By 7:00 a.m. we are dressed and packed and ready for breakfast. While we enjoy a nutritious and full breakfast, the tent crews are already breaking down the tents for the next camp along the way.
After breakfast we were introduced to every member of our “Dream Team,” some of who we had already met, but most who had worked on our behalf since the trek began. Then, prior to departing camp for the next segment, we had the great pleasure of the full team singing a variety of tribal songs, singing and dancing with a certain joy of sharing their heritage, and energizing us for the day.
After breakfast, we start the climb through the rainforest towards the more open terrain of Heath Moorland Zone. This is a steady climb, and after about 2 hours, we see the last big tree and immediately see a change in the vegetation to a wide variety of scrubs, bushes, grasses, flowers and small trees.
Today’s hike is our first acclimatizaion day, where we will hike to an elevation higher than the elevation we will sleep. Before we get there though, we enter a small clearing on a bluff with a view of the rainforest and cultivation zones that surround the base of Kilimanjaro. On this bluff, the dining tent, kitchen tent and toilet tents have been set up for our hour long lunch. These are all then disassembled, packed and loaded for the porters to take to the Shira 1 Camp.
After lunch we continue climbing to our high point for the day at about 12,000’ elevation. Then we enjoy a gentle descent into camp on the Shira Plain. In our descent into camp we get our first view of Kibo Peak, the central volcanic cone that encompasses the “Roof of Africa.” It is a bit daunting to see the peak that rises some 8000 more feet above us, knowing that in four days we will be standing there if we are successful in our endeavor.